It seems counterintuitive in any walk of life to help a competitor. In the entrepreneurial world, however, there are a number of ways that helping others can end up putting more money in your own pocket and generate better practices for your business.
Believe it or not, helping the competition can be beneficial. The following are five reasons why:
1. Mentors keep industries thriving.
When I was getting started with my sports-experiences business, I had the opportunity to interact with a man named Vince Gibson. A former football coach at Louisville and Tulane, Gibson had figured out how lucrative sports-travel packages might be.
He answered every one of my questions about our industry openly and honestly and ultimately became one of my mentors. Gibson could have held back everything he knew about sports travel, but it was not a market he was attempting to monopolize; and in the end we were both better off because of our relationship.
We ended up actually working together on projects and sharing many successes. Without mentors, new generations of entrepreneurs cannot blossom, so becoming one for a young and eager individual is something that can prove very rewarding for both parties.
2. That competitor might eventually acquire you.
In business it is never good to burn a bridge, mostly because you simply do not know what will happen with your company down the road. Google, for example, is as successful as it is because it has enlisted the help of the industry’s smartest people, many of whom came from competing companies of various sizes.
Not all business relationships, acquisitions and corporate reshufflings occur on that scale, but the idea is that you simply never know whom you will be working for or working with later in your career. Knowing that, keeping all lines of communication open and friendly is a good policy to practice.
3. Sharing information can be mutually beneficial.
While every thriving business does some things well, there are always going to be areas of weakness where a competitor can step in and help. If you are able to exchange information that a competitor needs for some of its own industry secrets, there often are plenty of good reasons your company will receive something in return. In the end, both businesses could benefit from that give-and-take.
4. It’s good for the industry as a whole.
Trade organizations exist to help businesses work together to ensure that their collective industry is well-represented and positively regarded by the public. Sharing information with businesses in your same industry can help ensure that everyone is working toward similar business goals. If your industry as a whole looks good, so will your individual business.
5. Teaching accomplishes more than withholding does.
My experience has always been that teaching peers accomplishes more than holding back knowledge. On one hand, it is important to be prudent and not give away any secrets that truly separate you from any competitor. Yet if you can help someone in a way that does not compromise your business or your integrity, the world and the marketplace generally will be better off from that interaction.
Growing up, we all had teachers who made us better people, the same way Vince Gibson’s advice and counsel helped me become a better businessperson. If you have knowledge, spread some of it around.
Helping up-and-comers or even longstanding competition can occasionally be a hard thing to do, but in the right instances there are good reasons to do it anyway. Someone helped you get to where you are, after all, and the universe loves to see people pay it forward.
Industries would not survive otherwise. Personally speaking, I have Vince Gibson to thank for much of my own success.